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Monday twofer



I was not surprised to hear yesterday that someone is taking on the New World (Australia, Chile, California) for global wine dominance in the value tier. After all, we’re in a recessionary time when all the cards are being reshuffled and recut, and who knows who will emerge on top. Nor was it surprising to learn who the potential usurper is: France’s Languedoc-Roussillon! All the 2,700 winemakers in that huge district — which covers 35% of France’s vineyard acreage — will now be able “to label their wine for the first time with the grape variety, vintage and location.” That will enable them to compete in the New World, where consumers look for wines with varietal names, like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. That’s why a top Languedoc official said, “It will help us a lot with the American market.”

That’s hundreds and hundreds of millions of bottles of wine, and a lot of it is going to cost under $10, giving stern competition to inexpensive California brands and New World imports.

Let’s back up and get philosophical. Since the recession began, we’ve assumed that the most expensive wines are in trouble. They are, but that doesn’t mean the bottom of the market is safe. You have only to look at Australia to see that. Nobody knows if and when the recession will lift and recovery return. But we know this: this announcement from the Languedoc-Roussillon is a shot across California’s bow, a warning signal that powerful interests in the European Union are moving in for their share of the loot.


Announcing the first ever Wine Bloggers Conference on Wine Writing

The world already has a Wine Bloggers Conference and a Wine Writers Conference, but what we don’t have is a Wine Bloggers Conference on Wine Writing (or WBCoWW, pronounced “web-cow”). I’m not sure how this ended up falling between the cracks, but it did. Probably because everybody’s so darned busy blogging, tweeting and monetizing, not to mention going to conferences, that nobody noticed.

Why a Wine Bloggers Conference on Wine Writing? Why now? And why me? Answers:

1. Because it’s needed.
2. If not now, when?
3. It’s my karma, which was never all that great.

I doubt if we can get Meadowood again — too pricey, and besides, the proctologists have it booked the third week of July (I checked), which is the only time I can make it. Even if we could afford a little room, I wouldn’t want to be sharing that Meadowood campus at night on those dark, creepy paths with a bunch of probing ass doctors, especially if I’ve been drinking, which I will. There are several AAA-approved motels in the Vallejo/AmCan area we could probably afford. And speakers. We need speakers. 1WineDude, are you free the week of July 15? I know you’re crazy busy, and we’ll need to book you months in advance. Have your people get in touch with mine. Alder Yarrow, any chance you’ll chair the panel on “How to chair a panel”? There may be a syndication deal. I think I can get you Jancis Robinson, or, at least, a Jancis lookalike (I know one from San Francisco). Parker said nyah, nyah, but he didn’t say nyah, nyah, nyah your mother wears combat boots, so maybe he’ll come. (Memo to Morton Leslie: please prepare for me a draft of winery-media relations as they have developed from the late 18th century into the digital age.) There’s some hope the Coppolas will come. Every wine conference needs a little glamor, which is why God created Karen MacNeil.

For our breakout session I suggest a rousing game of Truth or Dare, libations to be provided by whichever winery underwrites web-cow with the most funding. In this game, players ask embarrassing questions of each other, and challenge each other to do embarrassing things. For example, Heather John might dare Charlie Olken to lapdance in a bikini with Eric Asimov while blind tasting without spilling a drop onto Eric’s khakis, and The Hosemaster (should he attend the festivities, which is not at all clear) might raise the ante by daring all the bloggers to rate CO’s performance on a 100-point scale, or else risk having Charlie lapdance on them. (Try not to visualize.) It’s great fun, and could give new meaning to the word “Gewurztraminer.” By this time we should all be relaxed and harmonized enough to attend our second panel, which Jim Laube has graciously agreed to come out of hiding and chair. (Memo to self: Does he still look like his old WS picture? Find out.) It is entitled, “What would happen to the 100-point system if all the 100-point critics in the world suddenly disappeared, the way all the women did in Philip Wylie’s 1951 novel, ‘The Disappearance’”? When Jim proposed this topic, I thought it was a little un-P.C., but it does win the award for the world’s longest panel title, and should garner lots of media coverage, especially in Cigar Aficienado. It also raises the issue of: If Tish were armed with weapons of mass destruction, would he use them and, if so, upon whom? My personal opinion is that the 100 point system will not die with the death of its critics, but will long outlive them; and, in fact, numerically rate their demises. As long as I’m still here to participate in the debate, I’m content.

  1. Now you are out Hosemastering the Hosemaster.

  2. Morton Leslie says:

    1. I think this is good news if they understand the difference between Pinot and Cabernet when they put on their new labels. One thing you might answer for me, Steve. Why don’t wine critics seriously take on the below $10 wine segment. This is a segment that has tens of thousands of wines and the majority of all the wine consumers, yet try to find help from a critic. Your impressions of Bond or Harlan really only pertain to a few wine buyers, but a million wine drinkers are on their own sorting through all the New World and Old World value producers.

    2. I can help you on the 19th and part of the 20th century regarding winery/media relations, but my wife tells me I am stuck somewhere in the mid-20th without a clue.

  3. Morton, you’re usually right on but in this case you’re way off! Wine Enthusiast reviews thousands of inexpensive wines annually. A good portion of the 4500 wines I review each year are below $10 or $12. I review every single bottle of California wine that comes in, whether it’s Harlan or something from Fred Franzia. So you can’t complain about not finding help from this critic! Go to our free database at and see for yourself.

  4. sao anash says:

    I’m still trying to recover from the proctologists riff……

    If this event, or some semblance thereof, actually happens, I am officially throwing my hat into the ring as a volunteer PR person.

  5. kelkeagy says:

    Thanks for the morning chuckle. I may not be able to get the image of you wondering around Meadowood (intoxicated and hiding from proctologists) out of my head all day. Not to mention Charles Olken’s lap dancing abilities…

  6. Steve’s right, and the same goes for me. Both in the Wine Enthusiast database and especially in my newspaper columns, there are more under $15 wines than anything pricier.

  7. Bob Rossi says:

    I read the linked article about the Pays d’Oc wines. I’m a big fan of Languedoc wines, but I’m puzzled about the new designation. How does it differ from the Vin de Pays d’Oc designation, which allows for varietal and vintage labeling? Is it simply a change from it being an VDP to an IGP? If so, what’s really changed?

  8. Am thinking about coming to Napa in the summer….I know a lot about and can talk about wine writing, editing for social media. Be sure to include a lawyer who knows about FTC rules.

  9. Bob, not sure how it differs.

  10. Gee, Steve, thanks for asking me to participate. I have checked my schedule and find that I have to wash my hair in mid-July.

  11. The Motel 6 I found in Vallejo has nice bathrooms, you can do it there.

  12. Wow, Steve, this would be the perfect venue for me to premiere my new act that everyone is talking about, Poodles! Poodles! Oodles of Poodles! I was saving it for “America’s Got Talent,” but I’m offended by their lousy grammar.

    And I may just show up if only to see you and Hardy Wallace perform the legendary tribute, “Jess Jackson on Ice!”

  13. Ron, we’re trying to see if Rachel Alexandra is available.

  14. Can I go out of order?

    2. Hilarious. Well done, sir.

    1. For kicks, I went over to the Wine Enthusiast database and here’s what I found. Now, these numbers might not agree with your personal data, SH/PG, but it’s what the database gave me, a mere online user.

    Heimoff ratings, 2009
    Price range | # of CA wines rated (% of wines rated)
    0-$10 | 194 (4.5%)
    $11-$20 | 1,037 (24.2%)
    $21-$30 | 997 (23.3%)
    $31-$40 | 817 (19.1%)
    $41-$50 | 618 (14.4%)
    $51& up | 614 (14.4%)

    PG ratings, 2009
    Price range | # of OR/WA wines rated (% of wines rated)
    0-$10 | 52 (4.0%)
    $11-$20 | 391 (30.5%)
    $21-$30 | 388 (30.2%)
    $31-$40 | 213 (16.6%)
    $41-$50 | 144 (11.2%)
    $51& up | 96 (7.5%)

    I think you guys do a pretty decent job on the low end — especially compared to Spectator or Parker. Good on you there. That said, I don’t think it’s enough to say, as SH did, “I review every single bottle of California wine that comes in, whether it’s Harlan or something from Fred Franzia.” Tell the publisher you need a few nickles to go out and buy the lower-end wines that DON’T come in! I also note that PG, whose work I quite like, in his comment conveniently stretched the cutoff point from $10 to $15. Sorry, that won’t work. For many of us in search of everyday wines, there’s a huge difference between $7 and $14, and that’s really what we’re talking about here.

  15. I’m also busy during those dates.

    Not really, but my new dad Charlie Olken told me I had to say that…

  16. Eric Asimov says:

    I don’t think I’ve worn khakis in about 25 years….

  17. Pete, I should pay you for all that research! Anyhow, I have quite enough wine to review without going out and buying stuff in a jug. My impression of jug wines is that they’re sound and represent good value. When I was younger I drank jug wine, and I probably will again one of these days.

  18. Eric–

    I am greatly relieved to hear it. I hate doing lap dances on cheap pants.

    No, wait. As Steve said, don’t try to visualize that.

    And, Steve, if you cannot get me a ride on Rachel Alexander, I am not coming to the party. Those bloggers will just have to learn to write on their own.

  19. Steve, thanks so much for using my name in your blog. THe publicity this brings me, considering how many more people read your blog than your magazine articles, is immeasurable. Perhaps next time you can include mention of the reason you won’t run my comments. I am still not sure why that happened, in fact. Stay classy, man.

  20. I like that Steve filed this post under “comedy” – good stuff.

  21. Tish, it is untrue that I won’t run your comments. I told you last year that if you will be civil, like all my other commenters, I’ll run them. But if you’re going to be snarky and take cheap potshots at my magazine (as you just did in your comment), then I reserve the right to delete.

  22. Granted, Steve, I have wielded a highly critical blade to a lot of wine topics in recent years, including WS, RP, WE, ratings and you too. And I have always admired your ability to accept critical comments.

    Based on your not running a rather tame missive last October, and our post-deletion email exchange in October, I was distinctly led to believe you had nixed me. Happy to hear now that I am persona re-grata.

    As for the “potshots,” please keep in mind that if I had ever actually said anything untrue about “your” magazine, is there any doubt that WE would have followed through on one of their multiple threats to sue me? No. In fact, my point about more people reading your blog than your mag articles is not a potshot at all. It’s a compliment to you. Your blog has become a prime example of how authenticity trumps all when it comes to blogging, and why your solo writing resonates more widely online than all of the wine mag’s online articles and “blogs” put together.

  23. Tish, I don’t think you have any idea how many people read my blog or how many people read my articles in Wine Enthusiast. I myself don’t see it as some kind of contest.

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